There was a time when I lived in Israel.
It was a town on the shore, not far from the borders of Lebanon.
In those days, the country was not in combat like today, and there were only minor scuffles now and then.
Even still, one had to be prepared to ride a bus.
On the trucks that go back and forth between the west bank region and Jordan, there is nothing on the shaft other then a bed.
Because it resembles a skeleton, it was called a ‘skeleton truck’ and it was used to hold inspections to prevent unwanted objects such as bombs and weapons from being transported.
Once in a while, bombs were set in the buses, and people lost their arms, legs and lives.
But when you didn’t have money, you had no other choice but to ride these buses, and that was daily life.
I once stayed in Jerusalem.
In the small alleys, mules with bundles, little children coming back from school and women wearing Arabian outfits with round pita breads piled high on their heads were seen along with the tourists, and it seemed like things had not changed from the age of the bible.
But one early evening, when I opened the door, the air of the town was different.
There was nothing different in what I saw in the alley.
It was just the air.
That afternoon, a Jewish policeman had been killed by someone out side the Jaffa Gate that led to the old city.
Nothing else happened.
It may have happened, but it didn’t happen that day.
No one said anything, but I could feel that the air of the whole town was tense.
But people ate supper, closed their shops, slept and opened the shops again.
That was daily life.
I once visited a farm village in Cambodia.
In the laid-back scenery, I saw two lines on the ground which were drawn carelessly with lime powder.
I was told not to cross those lines.
On the other side was a minefield.
Outside the lines, the cows ate grass leisurely.
It was because no one could bring them back.
That was daily life.
That night, when I was eating at a restaurant, I got caught up in a shooting that started among the Vietnamese soldiers sitting at the table next to us.
In those days, the Vietnamese army was stationed in Cambodia.
On the plate that I used to put fish bones in, I heard a metallic sound, and a bullet that hit the ceiling fell into it.
The person who was sitting in front of me reached for the pot and said to me, “don’t move, keep on eating, and try not to aggravate them. Then, one by one, leave this table. OK, satovic, you go first.”
While I was turning totally pale, he continued to eat placing the contents of the pot on his rice. While the sound of shooting went on, he ate until the last of us had left that table.”
The commotion had been caused by a fight by the soldiers that brought out their guns after getting drunk.
Even if we had been hit by a stray bullet, it was useless to complain.
The whole situation was just outrageous.
It wasn’t like dying for a cause, or dying to protect something.
It was dying for nothing.
But at the time, there was only one thing to do.
Eat what was in front of us.
Then leave the table quietly.
That was the daily life for the people in that town, in that summer.
Even at the battlefields, the actual fighting with soldiers holding heavy weapons is only a short part of the time people are at war.
The rest of the time means, to continue to lead the daily life of eating, moving our bowels, peeing, and sleeping, under the tension of the possibility that we may kill others, or others may kill us.
Caught up in this outrageousness and tension, people start to make mistakes in their judgments.
There is such a thing as sin of creating unnecessary tension in the hearts of people. These have nothing to do with cause, ideals, or justice, and places with tanks and missiles are not the only battlefields.
On this day, I renewed my memories on this matter.
(originally posted on the board of B.S.J.
on August 15, 2006 - the day marking the end of World War II)